Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Heart’s Health

As we round the corner into spring, it is a great time to check-in and renew your commitment to a healthy year. A heart-healthy year. If you want to be healthy into your old age, it’s important to begin treating your heart well early on. The American Heart Association emphasizes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation as primary steps towards preventing heart disease. Assuming you’re up to date on your most recent physical, blood work, and doctor recommendations, what are the biggest ways to impact your heart with your daily choices? Here are five simple ways to boost your heart’s health.Heart Healthy Tips

Avoid Processed Foods. Steering clear of processed foods not only limits hidden sugars, sodium, and fake ingredients that sneak into your diet, it also forces you to emphasize the foods that reduce inflammation, improve your immunity and are packed with fiber, protein and micronutrients that do everything from boost your heart health to increase your ability to recover from your last workout. Try switching your breakfast cereal to oatmeal, which can assist in lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or building your meals around five foods that benefit your heart to include more produce, lean protein and healthy fats in your diet.

Get Your Workouts Started. For overall heart health, get moving at least 150 minutes per week. That can be 30 minutes every day, 10 minutes a few times each day, or an hour a few times each week. If you are new to working out regularly, or have current heart issues, this is a good zone to stay in for a few months to build up your endurance and confidence. Once these workouts become easier to accomplish and part of your everyday routine, it’s time to start making them tougher. You can start by adding in a tough workout (see below) once or twice a week.

Toughen Up your Workouts. Including tough workouts in your program is one of the best ways to help you manage your weight, as well as challenge your heart to make it stronger. Working out hard means your workouts can be shorter, accomplishing more in less time on busy days. A hard workout also means you’re challenging your heart at a higher level, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, your post workout recovery demands (calorie burn) and building muscle. If your current workouts are bringing you into your aerobic threshold (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and you’re in good physical health, you can start to bring in some interval training that increases your heart rate to between 85% and 100% of your maximum heart rate for brief periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes) during your training. You can do this by increasing either the speed or the resistance on your Vision home fitness equipment, or by using the interval setting provided on most machines.

Lift Weights. To keep improving your overall health and daily functioning, considering adding in some strength training. At a minimum, shoot for two strength training sessions each week, hitting the major muscle groups of your body. If you’re looking to start building muscle and improve your performance, slowly add in a third session to help you see results. (Just be sure to give yourself a day to recover between workouts.) To get even more out of your workout and increase the cardiovascular impact, combine movements to target multiple muscle groups at once, such as stepping into a lunge with a bicep curl or doing full body planks and push-ups to strengthen nearly everything in your body. Another idea is to including strength training as a part of a circuit approach, alternating 60-90 seconds of one exercise with the same period of time on your cardio equipment. Your body will be cashing in on the body changing benefits of a weight routine in no time.

Manage Stress. By choosing regular exercise and a healthy diet, you’ve taken some important steps towards controlling the stress in your life. You can add to those steps by including mindfulness, gratitude, meditation or yoga in your fitness routine. For more suggestions, check out the American Heart Association’s resources on understanding and managing stress. These steps can all pay you back with a happier life now – and better health in the long run.

Do you have a question about general fitness, goal setting, getting the most out of your Vision Fitness equipment, etc.? Our fitness experts would love to answer your question in an upcoming blog post on VisionFitness.com. Just leave your question in the comments below.

 

New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

While New Year’s resolutions frequently get a bad rap, forming one (or more) is a great way to start making healthy changes or to keep things moving in the right direction. Statistics citing that nearly half of all resolutions fail within six months are frequently thrown around to demonstrate the hopelessness of such a venture, but about half of the New Year’s resolvers also manage to make a lasting change. What separates the successful from the sidelines? Setting up the right resolutions and giving yourself the right tools is what it really takes to see a lasting impact from your good intentions.

Make your Resolution Specific. With your Vision Home Fitness equipment, you’ve already got a good start on keeping your fitness resolutions this year. To make sure you’re in the half that succeeds, take the time to make a resolution that sets you up for success. General resolutions such as “exercise more” or “lose weight”, without a specific plan for getting to that goal, sets you up to fail. Make your resolution specific and include a timeframe, whether that means eating two vegetables every day or losing a pound each week. You can also set a health related goal for a future point in time, such as running your first 5K this spring, then work backwards with a plan, such as a couch to 5K schedule or an appointment with a professional to get you on track.

Do your Homework. The website Usa.gov is a great resource for tips on succeeding in your resolutions. From eating healthy and getting active, to finding another job, this page offers a list of common New Year’s resolutions and provides a direct link to a webpage that will provide you with resources to help meet your goal. Even if you’ve already got the “eat right and exercise” thing down, you can still find support for activities that can improve your life and health, as well as that of others, such as volunteering (don’t forget about the Martin Luther King Day of Service on January 20) or enhancing your education. You can also read up on reinforcing your resolutions and creating habits if you really want to make a change in your daily routine.

Create Your Support Network. Simply creating a broad statement of your intention and posting it on Facebook or sharing it with your spouse can actually have a negative effect. Rather than helping you keep your resolution, this may help you feel that you’ve already taken some responsibility for the change and leave you feeling a little freer to make bad choices. Instead, create a network of support through people that are as invested in your goals as you are. This might mean setting up an appointment with a nutritionist, personal trainer, or physical therapist if you need support to reach your eating or exercise goals. You can also find group support through a weight loss focused group or like-minded athletes, such as a running group or intramural sport. If you have a friend or spouse with similar goals, setting up times to train together and ways to celebrate and support each other’s victories can also be a big help.

Measure and Reward. By creating a resolution that is based on time sensitive milestones, you’ve created a calendar for measuring your success. Try to find regular ways to reward your good behavior, especially during the first month. By staying with your resolution through the month of January, you’re ahead of the crowd. While over a third of resolvers tend to break within the first month, failures happen much more slowly after that. When you set up your rewards, find ways to reward yourself that are likely to keep you moving in the direction of the good behavior you’re trying to create. If exercise is your plan, make sure you earn a new pair of running shoes or athletic clothing (or just some new workout music). If you’re looking to eat right, maybe you could pay for a share in a Community Supported Agriculture program or a night out at a restaurant with health conscious offerings. Initially start with frequent rewards, every week or two, and start to space out the frequency after the first month as your new behaviors become habits.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!

Use Goal Setting to Revitalize Your Home Workouts

Whether you’re looking to step up your spring training or revitalize a lagging New Year’s resolution, personal goal setting is incredibly beneficial. It can help bring new motivation and drive to your home workouts, similar to how a personal trainer adds an element of accountability that pushes your workouts/performance to a higher level. If you’re willing to put in a little time creating and defining your goals, you can bring this same level of energy to your treadmill, elliptical and recumbent bike workouts at home. The best goal-setting techniques will include both creative and concrete strategies that help you to visualize and believe in the end result, as well as to establish a path to lead you there.

Get Creative.  While setting goals can be a bit scary, defining big-picture changes that you’d like to see brings meaning to your daily actions. Think big and think long term, coming up with a vision that will challenge you. Ask yourself where you want to be in five years. Do you have a healthy weight in mind?  Perhaps you’ve become a regular runner and are playing in your local intramural athletics over the winter? Or maybe your driving vision has more to do with being around longer to enjoy a healthy life with your family. Whatever your vision, your goals will be more meaningful if you take the time to make them personal. Try stating your vision in the present tense, as though it’s already happened…such as, “at my annual physical, the doctor is congratulating me on my weight loss of 40 pounds,” and then working from that statement to develop your plan. The idea here is to create a vision that gives you focus and energy when sticking to your daily plan. Lululemon’s blog offers some great tools for goal setting, including a goal-setting worksheet that you can download here.

Make it Concrete:  Once you’ve put your creativity into defining a personal, long-term goal, it’s time to get concrete about the shorter-term strategies you will use to reach that goal. Try breaking your long- term goal down to a shorter-term change, such as a weight loss of 10 pounds over the next three months. Then develop a plan for reaching that goal through your daily and weekly actions. This might include packing yourself a healthy lunch four days of your week, adding in additional workouts on your home exercise equipment and/or reducing empty calories such as sugar or alcohol. You can use the SMART acronym when defining your goal…making it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. This will help you to prevent developing vague “goals,” such as “eat healthier,” without having a means of measuring your progress. Your job here is to come up with a plan for the frequency of your activities, a defined ending or check-in date and a little reality checking to make sure you won’t give up entirely the first time you skip a training session. For more help in creating a concrete, personal goal, check out this resource at Sparkpeople.

Keep Your Goal Alive:  Once you’ve defined your goal and developed a plan for reaching it, find a way to bring reminders of your efforts into your daily life. You can enlist the help of others by bringing in friends, family or even an online community to increase your accountability and motivation. Schedule regular check-ins so that you have a way of measuring your progress. Also, create reminders in areas you’re likely to see them to help keep you on track. This might mean changing the wallpaper on your laptop to include motivating pictures and words, taping a goal race time to your treadmill to help you stick to your training schedule, putting a goal weight on the pantry door or just keeping a photo of your family where you can see it, if being healthy for them is your goal.

Weigh In: What goal-setting tricks and techniques keep you motivated to stick to your workouts at home?